SC Rejects 26-Week Pregnancy Termination Plea

SC Rejects 26-Week Pregnancy Termination Plea

By: WE Staff | Tuesday, 17 October 2023

The Supreme Court denied a woman's petition to abort her 26-week pregnancy on Monday, ruling in a case that pitted a woman's bodily autonomy against the rights of an unborn foetus.

The Supreme Court bench led by Chief Justice of India (CJI) DY Chandrachud mentioned that abortion was not permissible because there was no immediate threat to the woman and no foetal abnormality.

The Medical Termination of Pregnancy (MTP) Act of 1971 does not permit abortion in the absence of such conditions, says the SC. It further ordered the state to pay for all medical expenses in the case and stated that the woman was free to keep the child or place it for adoption.

Previously, the Supreme Court mentioned in a case that "we cannot kill a child" and that there was a need to "balance out the rights of the unborn child."

The present case involves a married woman who is already having two children and this is now pregnant for the third time. She had requested that her pregnancy be terminated as she was not capable of raising this child emotionally, mentally and financially. In addition to this, the woman is suffering from postpartum psychosis.

The amendments made to the Medical Termination of Pregnancy (MTP) Act of 1971 in India now allow abortion with the consent of one medical practitioner that too inside 12 weeks and the opinion of two medical practitioners within 20 weeks. The MTP rules also allow a 24-week abortion only for 'exceptional cases'.

The Supreme Court granted the woman permission to terminate her pregnancy during the initial hearing on 9 October due to her mental state. She discovered her pregnancy late due to Lactational Amenorrhea.

After the judgment, AIIMS officials wrote to Additional Solicitor General Aishwarya Bhati that the foetus was 'viable' and had a 'strong possibility of survival' and the case was remanded to a two-judge women's bench which brought split decisions. Justice Hima Kohli stated that her judicial conscience does not allow her to Termination whereas Justice BV Nagarathna stated that the petitioner's decision should be respected.

The case was then heard by a bench led by the Chief Justice of India, who made significant observations about how women's rights 'must trump' when it comes to abortion and the need to 'balance out the rights of the unborn child'.

Dr. Amit Mishra, the petitioner's counsel figured no abnormalities in the foetus during the ultrasound. He also informed the Bench that the petitioner had clearly stated that she could not continue her pregnancy for three more months. The CJI stated that the Bench is aware of her pregnancy being unintentional and unplanned.

Aishwarya Bhati informed the Court that the Union government is willing to cover the costs of her treatment at AIIMS until her child is born as well as accept the responsibility of placing her for adoption if she is willing.